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Last Updated: Friday, 28 December 2007, 15:03 GMT
Bhutto's home province stunned
By M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Karachi

Pakistani soldiers patrol in Karachi, 28 December 2007
Violence broke out across Karachi

In the worst of times, Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi has never been so gloomy and still as it was on the morning after the assassination of the opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto.

The news of her death in Rawalpindi spread through the country like wild fire, sparking widespread riots.

Her native Sindh province has been the hardest hit.

Angry crowds burned down several hundred vehicles and at least three inter-provincial trains. They also damaged scores of public buildings, including at least three jails.

Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, bears the scars of this mayhem.

The roads and streets across most of this city of 16 million people are strewn with ashes and debris from overnight rioting and destruction.


The news of Ms Bhutto's assassination on Thursday evening led to the immediate closure of the city's markets and brought traffic to a halt.

On Friday morning, nothing moved in the city, frustrating my attempts to get to Larkana, over 600km (370 miles) north of Karachi and the nearest city to Ms Bhutto's village, Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, to report on her funeral.

The people of Sindh have been orphaned today, they should be excused for going mad
Iqbal Channa,
Government official

Petrol stations all over Sindh province had shut down overnight, and rent-a-car companies were turning customers away because of the absence of fuel and the fear of riots.

Rail traffic to and from the city was suspended on Thursday night when arsonists set at least three trains and several railway stations on fire, severing rail links with Balochistan in the west and with the rest of the country to the north.

And for the first time in living memory, the main booking office of the national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines, shut down completely.

My attempt to catch a flight chartered by Ms Bhutto's PPP party to take her sister, Sanam Bhutto, to Larkana, came too late. By the time I reached the airport, the flight was already full.

It took me nearly two hours to drive back 12km (7.5 miles) from the airport to the BBC bureau, making retreats or taking long detours to avoid rioters that had taken to the streets by noon.


For many, this outbreak of emotions was natural.

"The people of Sindh have been orphaned today, they should be excused for going mad," said a government servant, Iqbal Channa, who spoke to the BBC by telephone from the site of Ms Bhutto's burial.

Benazir Bhutto supporters surround an ambulance carrying her coffin, 28 December 2007
Tens of thousands turned out for the funeral

Several people who were put on the phone by Mr Channa said that the province had been deprived of its only link with the federation of Pakistan.

"The Sindhis have been left leaderless, and this can be dangerous for the [integrity of the] country," said Aqeel Mehri.

Thousands of people started pouring onto the site of the burial early on Friday morning, beating their chests and heads in mourning.

Most of them had braved riots along the way, and now waited there for several hours before Ms Bhutto's coffin was brought for burial.

The BBC Urdu service's correspondent in Larkana, Nisar Khokhar, says that tens of thousands of people had gathered at the site by the time the funeral was held.


He said the younger people among the mourners were in a charged mood, and they chanted slogans against Punjab, the country's largest and politically dominant province.

"They were chanting slogans like 'we don't want Pakistan [because] it has only given us dead bodies'."

But several others grieved quietly, expressing despair when asked to comment on Ms Bhutto's death.

"She went the way of the Bhuttos, which is a sad legacy," said Dr Bakht, a long time PPP sympathiser.

Ms Bhutto is the fourth member of the family to have died a violent death.

Her father and former Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged by a military regime in 1979 after a controversial trial.

One of her brothers was poisoned to death in France, while another was shot dead by the police in mysterious circumstances in Karachi.

Sanam Bhutto is her only surviving sibling. She lives in the UK.

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